13 Killer Clergymen (and Women)
Article By: Sean Abley
Priests, pastors, preachers, nuns; these brothers and sisters of the cloth are going to need some extra time in the confessional after they’re done preaching the gospel of murder!
1. Reverend Harry Powell from "The Night of the Hunter" (1955)
Serial murderer and preacher Powell (Robert Mitchum) works his way into a small community for the purposes of finding the spoils of a bank robbery gone wrong. Willa’s (Shelley Winters) husband Ben (Peter Graves) committed the crime, accidentally murdering two people in the process. After entrusting his two children with the money, he’s dragged to jail and eventually executed. Powell marries Willa in an attempt to get closer to the hidden cash, eventually discovering the children’s secret. He murders their mother, then chases them down the river until a kindly old woman (Lillian Gish) puts herself between the children and the madman. Will she be able to keep the killer at bay? A critical and box office failure at the time of its release, The Night of the Hunter is now considered one of the best thrillers in American cinema. The cast can’t be beat; Robert Mitchum’s performance as Powell is mesmerizing, with his natural charisma working against his nuanced performance as a psychopathic killer; as his dominated, pious wife Shelley Winters is exceptional. Sadly the failure of the film could be the reason the brilliant thespian-turned-director Charles Laughton never helmed another feature. That’s a shame, because The Night of the Hunter is truly a classic of the genre.
2. Sister Mary Chopper from "Bloody Bloody Bible Camp" (2012)
Played by horror director Tim Sullivan (Chillerama, 2001Maniacs), Sister Mary Chopper is one bad nun, taking corporal punishment to the extreme by murdering a group of young sinners during their stay at Happy Day Bible Camp in 1977. The camp reopens in 1984 and the nun is back! Or is she? This horror comedy is a low budget affair, but fun in a ridiculous way. And it’s always nice to see Reggie Bannister and Ron Jeremy (as Jesus) working. Sister Mary is kept off screen for most of the trailer, but if you’re interested in some behind-the-scenes action that includes Sullivan as the merry murderess, check out this clip.
3. Reverend Malius from "Happy Hell Night" (1992)
A killer priest slasher with Kolchak: The Night Stalker’s Darren McGavin? We’re in! Reverend Malius kills a bunch of fraternity guys, and in return is sent to the crazy nut house. Unfortunately, twenty-five years later another group of fraternity guys decide to set this nutjob free, with predictable results.
4. The Order of the Black Habit from "Nun of That" (2009)
Richard Griffin’s tale of sisters doin’ it for themselves (and Jesus) is packed with high octane ultraviolence, sex, and snappy dialogue. Tasked with ridding the world of unholy trash, the nuns of the Black Habit technically have good intentions. But the Bible is pretty clear on murder, so these shotgun sisters have paved their way to our Hell of a list.
5. Sister Ursula from "The Nun" (2005)
In this Spanish horror film, Sister Ursula terrorizes a private Catholic school, going so far as to try and force a young girl to have an abortion. The girl’s friends arrive just in time to stop the psycho sister by drowning her in the bathtub. After ditching her body in a lake that’s been previously blessed by a priest (turning it into holy water), the girls breath a sigh of relief. No way this is coming back to haunt them, right? Oh, silly, nun-murdering Catholic school girls. Years later the pregnant girl, now a parent to young Eve (the child Sister Ursula tried to have aborted), is killed, leaving her daughter and her friends to unravel the mystery as the rest of the now grown women involved follow their former classmate into the grave. Sister Ursula has come back from the dead… or does she?
6. Isaac Chroner from "Children of the Corn" (1984) and "Children of the Corn" (2009)
In the first adaptation of Stephen King’s brutal short story of the same name, a child preacher named Isaac (John Franklin) leads his small town’s children in a revolt against their parents. This mass slaughter of everyone over 18 years of age is done in the name of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” a mysterious entity worshipped by Chroner who, according to the youngster, requires human sacrifice to ensure a healthy corn crop. As the years pass each child who reaches adulthood is sent into the field as a further sacrifice, as are any passing adults they can lure off the highway. In the Syfy 2009 remake the events transpire in much the same order, but with a much higher body count.
7. Zombie nun from "Dawn of the Dead" (1978)
“When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth…” Then why is this nun walking the earth? Was she a bad nun?
8. Dr. Owen and the Catholic church from "[REC]2" (2009)
Technically the church is involved in all four [REC] films, but Dr. Owen makes his first appearance in the second film of the series. The backstory involves a young girl who was raped by a group of priests, who then became possessed during an exorcism. The church imprisons the girl, performing experiments on her in an attempt to isolate a biological reason for demonic possession. Fast forward to the present, with Dr. Owen (actually a priest) arriving at the site of a massive demonic infection spreading through the residents in an apartment building. Although he seems to be there to help, his intentions are far from altruistic.
9. Father Damian Karras from "Exorcist III" (1990)
Poor Father Karras! Although he invited the demon possessing little Regan MacNeil into his own body, then threw himself out a window to kill that demon in The Exorcist, now he’s possessed again. Turns out he didn’t die in the fall (yay!), but apparently Pazuzu wasn’t super thrilled about being exorcized, so he’s making Karras pay by forcing him to play host to a recently executed serial killer’s soul (boo!). Written and directed by William Peter Blatty (the author of both The Exorcist and Legion novels upon which the films are based) Exorcist III is not only vastly superior to the so-bad-it’s-good Exorcist II, but a well done effort that holds up when viewed as a stand alone film.
10. Thana from "Ms. 45" (1981)
Nuns and guns, two great tastes that taste great together. Mute seamstress Thana has had enough. After being sexually assaulted twice in one night, the shy girl’s vengeance switch is flipped firmly to the “On” position. Men of all kinds meet their fate in a series of killings (some justified, at least one not) courtesy of Thana’s weapon of choice, a .45. The climax of the film is this costume party, which Thana attends dressed as a sexy nun. After blessing each bullet, Ms. 45 does a bang-up job on the male partygoers.
11. Sister Madeline from "Desecration" (1999)
A young boy accidentally causes the death of Sister Madeline, who comes back to haunt him and the school. That simple logline in no way prepares you for the fever dream that is visionary writer/director Dante Tomaselli’s first feature film. Loaded with inventive visuals (made more impressive when considering the film’s low budget), and employing a style that evokes a nonstop feeling of dread, Desecration is a must see for genre fans looking for something major studios wouldn’t consider producing in a million years. This clip is just a few moments of a truly original film.
12. Sang-hyun from "Thirst" (2009)
Sang-hyun is a Catholic priest transformed into a vampire courtesy of a blood transfusion (guess someone at the Red Cross didn’t read the donor’s info card closely enough…) Although he tries to be a good guy and only imbibe from blood bags stolen from the hospital, the desire to hunt is too strong, forcing him to attack real, live human game. On the romance front, faced with living alone for all eternity, he turns a lady friend (Tae-ju) after she convinces him to kill her husband. Sadly as is so often the case in these situations, Tae-ju turns out to be not only a liar (her husband wasn’t abusing her as she inferred), but a ravenously hungry sociopathic killing machine as well. (Sad trombone) This award-winning (Cannes Jury Prize, among others) South Korean import from writer/director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Snowpiercer) is deliberately paced, impeccably acted, and moody as all get out. Definitely watch the subtitled version not the dubbed.
13. Reverend Shooter from "Hot Fuzz" (2007)
(Video is NSFW for language)
The aptly named Reverend Shooter has a brief, but amazing, moment of badassery in this comedy about an organized crime infestation in a small English village.
Sean Abley is a playwright, screenwriter and horror film journalist. His latest book of interviews is Out in the Dark: Interviews with Gay Horror Filmmakers, Actors and Authors.